If you’re not outraged right now, you’re not paying attention. The amazing Amazon is burning, set on fire by people determined to clear new land. Our politicians are vilifying and demonising refugees, and there are still people languishing on Manus Island and Nauru. The oceans are choked with plastic, and yet our big supermarkets are trying to outdo each other with how many bits of gimmicky plastic they can give away. They are planning to bulldoze 800 year old trees that are sacred to the Djap Wurrung people in Victoria to make way for a new bit of road. The QLD Government has quietly extinguished Native Title on a section of land to make way for the Adani Coal mine – oh, and they’re probably going to subsidise the mine as well. Meanwhile Pacific Islanders are begging Australia to take serious action on climate change, and instead, we’re dragging our heels, defending our love affair with coal, and setting ourselves insignificant targets. Trump is still lying. And who even knows what the hell is going on with Brexit and Boris Johnson?
Here is the problem. Outrage is not a useful emotion. I say this from personal experience. It makes you bitter and angry, tired of the world and all the bullshit that is going on. Outrage polarises us. It divides us. Thanks to the glorious echo chamber of our own beliefs that is social media, we are more divided and polarised than ever. Outrage puts us up on our moral high horse, unable to see that maybe other people have points of view as well. It makes us strident and shouty. Outrage does not fit well with kindness, with hopefulness, with peace.
So what do we do? Subside into apathy? Distract ourselves with reality TV and some more shopping? Give in to hopelessness? Despair?
As Joan Baez said, ‘Action is the antidote to despair.’ It is action, rather than outrage, which may actually help to get us out of the mess that we’re in. Outrage is easy. It’s bitter and sarcastic and sharp. Action is much harder. It requires effort, and patience. It requires at least a little bit of intelligence.
This is what I keep telling myself. Don’t just be outraged. DO something. It seems like all the tiny things that I do are just a drop in the giant bucket of all-hell-breaking-lose that’s going on around us. But if we all take a break from the outrage and actually DO something, then we may actually make a giant difference. Here are some things that I’m working on.
Contact your politicians
If there is an issue that is important to you, contact the relevant politician. For example, here in WA, we currently have no renewable energy target (all of the other states do). We should ALL be contacting our state Energy Minster, and telling him that we want to see an ambitious renewable energy target put in place as a matter of urgent priority. If you, like me, feel that the way we are treating vulnerable refugees on Manus Island and Nauru is unconscionable, you could contact your state senators and urge them to vote against repealing the Medevac legislation. You could contact your local pollie about whatever it is that is important and significant to you. Email, phone, post a letter, book an appointment for a chat. Do a little bit of research before you get in touch, and make your point in a simple and clear manner. If enough of us do, we can make our voices heard.
Show up to local events and causes. Show up to your local climate rally (remember, the Strike for Climate Action is on the 20th of September). Join protests and actions wherever they are happening, but also show up to support smaller action. Join your local environmental group. Join a political party, if that’s your thing. Shop at your local farmers market, for goodness sake. Build community with like-minded people and back up people who are organising things. People often try to argue that protests and demonstrations are ineffectual. Tell that to the people of Hong Kong. Tell that to the people involved in the Civil Rights movement. Tell that to people all over the world who have shown up, and made their voices heard. There is power in numbers.
Stop the rampant consumerism
This is not what the government wants us to do. The economy is slowing, and they want us to spend! Spend! Spend! Stimulate growth! Buy more crap! But we have spent decades and decades borrowing from the future in order to finance our habit of MORE. Yes, the economy is going to suffer, but sooner or later we have to face facts. We need to all learn how to be satisfied with ‘enough’. We need to teach our children the same thing. Economic growth and prosperity at the cost of our world and our future is not a good trade off.
And then stop
This is the bit I’m still working on. Once the outrage has been channelled into action, and you’ve done all you can do, you need to stop. Turn off the TV, step away from Facebook and Twitter, shut down the computer. Get a bit of fresh air. Focussing on all the outrage can cause us to miss the good, beautiful, precious moments of our lives. Action is important, but so is sitting outside in the sunshine for a bit. Planting a flower. Watching a sunset. Playing with the kids. Chatting with friends. Walking on the beach. Appreciating the incredible and fleeting moments of joy and beauty and wonder in our lives. Appreciating the beauty around us rekindles hope and optimism, and nourishes our souls. The outrage will always be there. Let’s learn to turn it off.